The HPIES experiment about to be dropped to the seafloor from the surface. It is kept balanced by a series of weights attached to the bottom, so the equipment doesn't tip over on its way down.
11 August 2014
We are back in Newport. Leg 2 has come to a close. Now that things have calmed down, it seems like the time for a little reflection. As I mentioned before, it’s been a few years since I’ve been out to sea. It was fun to return, if only for a short while. If I had to pick a favorite part of the expedition, it would have to be our short visit to the Axial Caldera. The lava formations covering the sea floor were very interesting. This was also my first experience around a submersible ROV. I really enjoyed being able to look through its cameras. It truly felt like you were there on the bottom with it. If I had one regret, it would be not having seen the hydrothermal vents. I knew up front we weren’t scheduled to visit them, but it would have been pretty neat if we had. Maybe next time.
I’ll stay one more night onboard and leave tomorrow. Thank you to Drs. John Delaney and Deb Kelley, as well as everyone that worked behind the scenes to get the students onboard. Thanks to Ed McNichol for keeping it fun. Thanks to Julie Nelson for the good conversations. Thanks also to the rest of my leg 2 shipmates that were always willing to help when asked. Good luck to the incoming leg 3 students and those that follow. I hope you all will find something that inspires you.
9 August 2014
The last couple of days have been pretty active. As you’re likely aware, an agreement was signed allowing for equipment to be plugged into the primary nodes. This led to a side trip to the PN3B site at Axial Caldera. This was interesting as the “landscape” of the sea floor was quite different there. Through ROPOS’s cameras I go to see plenty of basalt pillow and sheet lava formations. It was neat to see some perfect examples of what I had learned about in geology class.
After taking over 400 pictures of the area to be used to create a mosaic, the ROV surfaced. Next, we transited back to Axial Slope to try again at installing the deep profiler. As I write this, ROPOS is descending to attempt to connect the profiler to its data/power cable. I’ll have to wait until morning to find out if it was successful.
After this dive, we only have a few hours before we have to head back to Newport. I’m not sure if we’ll try to squeeze something in. Apparently weather is bad at Slope Base, so I’m not sure what may be left. Meanwhile, we are slowly but surely trying to being our projects to a close.
8 August 2014
Yesterday involved a strange dichotomy of emotions onboard. Spirits were up on deck for the barbeque celebrating a crewmember’s birthday. Meanwhile, spirits were down in the control room over the inability to connect the deep profiler dock to its power/comms cable. Repeated attempts and different strategies were ultimately unsuccessful. So ROPOS moved on to complete the other missions on the dive and eventually came back up after being down for about 32 hours. Some people actually stayed awake for most of the dive. Now they are making preparations to recover the deep profiler onto deck.
With about 3 days left, we’re all trying to wrap up our projects. Doesn’t look like we’ll get the operational footage of the deep profiler that we were hoping for. At least we still have some of APL’s test footage that Tim gave us. It would have been much less interesting if we had to make a video of a moving sensor using only still images.
6 August 2014
The aft deck of the Thompson is slowly but surely gaining free space. More and more equipment continues to be placed in the water. Earlier today, the HPIES sensor was lowered over the side. Don’t remember what that stands for and don’t totally understand yet what it does. Instead of being lowered by ROPOS, it was actually let loose to freefall 2,600 meters to the sea floor. The engineers all seemed tense, hoping everything would go well. They placed a transponder on the unusual contraption to track where it landed. Apparently, it only drifted about 150 meters from straight down. We’ll likely visit it tomorrow with ROPOS to adjust its location and connect it to its cable.
After that was sent on its way, they started preparing the deep profiler mooring for deployment. We all went out to see the iron base, acoustic release, and the electronics housing go off the stern. Now the 2,500 or so meters of data cable is slowly feeding out. The other components should follow overnight.
We saw a different looking bird land on the boat today. Someone looked it up and determined it was a brown-footed booby. Apparently they typically don’t travel further north than southern California, so that was an interesting sight.
5 August 2014
Well the weather at Axial Base is calmer. There was another dive overnight with another scheduled for this morning. So now I decided to work on this while waiting to see if it will start during my watch. I still haven’t seen the ROV actually going into the water. Most of the dives have started after I went to bed at night. Supposedly, there has typically been a lot of fish, etc. to see as ROPOS passes through the shallower depths.
This trip reminds me of the large incident responses I used to work on. You bring such a huge wealth of knowledge and experience into such close quarters. With so many people, from such varied backgrounds, inevitably some great conversations get started. I’ve never been much of a talker myself. Instead, I more enjoy walking around and finding the talkers. Eventually you will always find at least one person with good, hopefully funny, stories. This trip is not an exception. Of course, after this experience, most everyone here will have some good stories to tell while on future trips. I mean, how many people can say they were involved with placing sensor equipment 2,600 meters down at an underwater volcano?
We got some great video for our project yesterday. We asked Dr. Kendra Daley to give us a brief synopsis of the deep profiler and the value of the data it should collect. She gave us about ten solid minutes of explanation. Thank you to her for her time. Now we just have to figure out how to mine out the best parts so we can fit it into our final video.
4 August 2014
Today, August 4th, is the 224th birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard. It seems only fitting to be out on the ocean to “celebrate” the event. Of course everyone on shore is going to the annual picnic, so maybe not. This also means there’s only one week left until return to port. Time to make some real progress on our video.
Anyway, weather was not favorable at the Slope Base location. So instead of waiting it out, we are transiting to Axial Base. Kind of funny how you get excited about a change in location. Something tells me that the ocean surface might just look the same there. But, through the eyes of ROPOS’s cameras, perhaps there will be some new scenery. I’ve been told there is likely to be more sea life to see at Axial Base, which makes sense.
I also hear the weather will be more favorable there. So hopefully that means we’ll be able to get one of the deep profilers in the water. It would really help our project for us to have some video of that. Plus I’m just really interested to see it work. I got PLENTY of experience conducting CTD casts in Dr. Cheryl Greengrove’s Estuaries Field Studies course in the spring. While that was certainly interesting, the data we got back only gave us a single snapshot of the conditions at each location. If all goes as expected, the deep profilers will give data over extended periods of time, maybe a decade or more. This will allow for visibility of long term seasonal or annual trends. In turn, this would give terrific insight into changes in water temperature and currents and the associated productivity. Being an Environmental Science major, this is where I see my connection to the whole Regional Scale Nodes project.
3 August 2014
Finally got to stand a watch today. Once again the ROPOS dive started just as I was going to sleep last night. But this one lasted until my scheduled daily watch from 0800-1200. It took a little bit to get used to the logging system we make entries into during watch. But, thanks to Jesse for helping me out on that. Not too many critters made an appearance during our shift but it was still fun to watch the ROPOS team maneuver the ROV.
Alex and I have decided to make a movie introducing the deep profiler for our project. The deep profiler is a permanently-moored system that will collect data from near the seafloor to approximately 90 meters below the surface. It does this by repeatedly transitting up and down a line anchored to the sea floor and suspended under a large float. When it reaches the sea floor, the data is sent back through the cable network to shore. Eventually the data will be available to anyone with internet access. Pretty cool, really. There are currently plans to install three systems, one each at Axial Base, Slope Base and Endurance.
2 August 2014
Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve been out on the ocean, about a month short of twenty actually. It was good to see that not too much has changed, though the internet, at least for most people at the time, only existed in science fiction. So it’s kind of amazing to be able to check email, etc. out here, even if in a limited capacity. It’s even more amazing to see them broadcasting live video updates on the missions.
It’s fun to be underway again. It only took about a half hour to get back my sea legs. On one hand the weather has been pretty nice. The gentle rolling of the ship is pretty relaxing. I used to love riding into rough weather, cresting over the waves and diving down into the troughs. But bad weather is not good for the operations we’re trying to complete out here. In fact, the relatively small swells were enough to put yesterday’s dive on hold for a few hours, eventually taking place while I slept last night. I was all ready to go on watch for this morning’s dive when it was also postponed due to a mechanical issue with the ROV.
In the meanwhile, we’ve seen a good variety of sea life. About a couple hours out from Newport, Rachel came into the lab to let everyone know she had seen whale spouts off the starboard side. I saw quite a few spouts and one even surfaced for a second or two. But unfortunately we didn’t see enough for anyone to identify them. Incidentally, my wife said she would kill me if I saw whales, so I guess I’m doomed. We’ve also been surrounded by thousands upon thousands of little Velella velella jellyfish. They float on the surface, relying on the wind for transport. Someone brought a few onboard for a closer look. They’re interesting little organisms, but I just can’t get over how many there are. We also saw a small sunfish floating along with a few seabirds in tow. Now I’m just looking forward to seeing what kind of biology we’ll encounter during the dives.